Volume 536, December 2011
|Number of page(s)||19|
|Published online||05 December 2011|
European Southern Observatory, Casilla 19001, Santiago 19, Chile
2 Institut für Theoretische Physik und Astrophysik, Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel, Leibnizstr. 15, 24098 Kiel, Germany
3 Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS), Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, 3-1-1 Yoshinodai, chuo-ku, Sagamihara, Kanagawa 252-5210, Japan
4 Department of Physics, University of California in Santa Barbara, Broida Hall, Santa Barbara, CA 93106-9530, USA
5 Steward Observatory, The University of Arizona, 933 N. Cherry Ave, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA
Received: 10 February 2011
Accepted: 19 September 2011
We present high spatial resolution mid-infrared (MIR) 12 μm continuum imaging of low-luminosity active galactic nuclei (LLAGN) obtained with VLT/VISIR. Our goal is to determine whether the nuclear MIR emission of LLAGN is consistent with the existence of a dusty obscuring torus, the key component of the unification model for AGN. Based on available hard X-ray luminosities and the previously known tight correlation between the hard X-ray and 12 μm luminosities, we selected a sample of 17 nearby LLAGN without available VISIR N-band photometry. Combined with archival VISIR data of 9 additional LLAGN with available X-ray measurements, the dataset represents the bulk of southern LLAGN currently detectable from the ground in the MIR. Of the 17 observed LLAGN, 7 are detected, while upper limits are derived for the 10 non-detections. This increases the total number of AGN detected with VLT/VISIR to more than 50. All detections except NGC 3125 appear point-like on a spatial scale of ~0.35″. The detections do not significantly deviate from the known MIR-X-ray correlation but exceed it by a factor of ~10 down to luminosities <1041 erg/s with a narrow scatter (σ = 0.35 dex, Spearman rank ρ = 0.92). The latter is dominated by the uncertainties in the X-ray luminosity. Interestingly, a similar correlation with a comparable slope but with a normalization differing by ~2.6 orders of magnitude has been found for local starburst galaxies. In addition, we compared the VISIR data with lower spatial resolution data from Spitzer/IRS and IRAS. By using a scaled starburst template spectral energy distribution and the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) 11.3 μm emission line, we were able to restrict the maximum nuclear star-formation contamination of the VISIR photometry to ≲30% for 75% of the LLAGN. Exceptions are NGC 1097 and NGC 1566, which may possess unresolved strong PAH emission. Furthermore, the MIR-X-ray luminosity ratio is unchanged over more than 4 orders of magnitude in accretion rate within the uncertainties. These results are consistent with the existence of the dusty torus in all observed LLAGN, although a jet or accretion disk as origin of the MIR emission cannot be excluded. Finally, because the MIR-X-ray correlation holds for all LLAGN and Seyferts, this is a very useful empirical tool for converting between the MIR and X-ray powers of these nuclei.
Key words: accretion, accretion disks / galaxies: active / infrared: galaxies / galaxies: nuclei / galaxies: Seyfert / X-rays: galaxies
Appendices are available in electronic form at http://www.aanda.org
© ESO, 2011
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